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Bruins are the Rangers' superiors

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 21, 2013 09:06 PM

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Well now, this suddenly feels like it might end with a parade, doesn't it?

I know, I know, it's foolhardy business to peer too far ahead in the Stanley Cup playoff before the task at hand is complete. The Bruins' bloody, stirring 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Game 3 over the Rangers Tuesday night in their Eastern Conference semifinals series gave them a 3-0 lead in the series.

It was a win rich in both style and substance, and if you're not enthused about the Bruins this morning, I have no choice but to suspect there's a 20-year-old Mark Messier sweater buried somewhere in the back of your closet.

The Bruins' advantage seems safe and insurmountable, a suggestion to which the more cynical Bruins fans will reflexively reply: "Yeah, but the Flyers three years ago ..."

I suppose it's a fair warning, at least on the surface. If ever a reminder is needed to never take any advantage in a series for granted, the blown 3-0 lead to the Flyers in the second round of the 2009-10 postseason is always handy.

But in regard to this particular 3-0 lead, it doesn't apply. It doesn't. There's nothing to fear here. The Bruins, so brilliant at the beginning of the season, exasperating in their complacency at times through the middle and end, have found that mojo and then some that they had in the early going. They're what they were supposed to be all along.

These are not the Bruins of three years ago. But they sure are starting to look like the team from two years ago, one that stepped on the accelerator after a harrowing seven-game first-round series in which defeat may have changed everything and floored it all the way to Vancouver and their first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons.

See, it's not just that they're winning, it's how they're winning. It's with that depth that many of us presumed would be a particular advantage during the abbreviated season.

The third victory of the series was delivered in large part by the stellar play of the Bruins' Don't-Call-'Em-The-Fourth-Line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille and the continued unexpected scoring touch of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. As one Twitter jokester put it after Boychuk's hard-earned fourth goal of the postseason tied the game at 1-1 at 3:10 of the third period, he's become a Manchuk in these playoffs.

That goal, a laser from the right point, was set up by the relentless forechecking of Thornton, Campbell and Paille to keep the puck in the zone and the pressure on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was sensational Wednesday night, particularly in the second period when the Bruins could not pierce him despite a 14-5 shot advantage.

So it was only just that the fourth line, so deserving of praise and plaudits ...

... would score the winning goal against Lundqvist, whom the Bruins have now beaten at his worst (he allowed five goals in Game 2) and at his best (he was 12-3 career with a 1.92 goals-against average on his home ice against the Bruins entering Game 3, and he looked like that guy Tuesday night).

Paille got the winner at 16:29, a goal born from uncanny awareness and pure hustle. After Paille kept the puck in along the boards, the Bruins went on the attack, with one shot trickling behind Lundqvist but suddenly spinning away from the net after approaching the goal line. With extraordinary alertness and the quickness to beat two Rangers defensemen to the scene, Paille batted the loose puck over Lundqvist's glove to provide the winning margin.

Each member of that line could have registered as one of the three stars, but the Bruins had more nominees than that. Young defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug were again dynamic, and it makes you wonder if there are any other gems hidden in Providence at the moment.

Tuukka Rask was somewhere between steady and brilliant, and his performance continues to be encouraging given his presence in net is the primary difference between this team and the one that hoisted the Cup two years ago, when Tim Thomas defended his turf the way he now presumably defends his favorite amendments.

Just imagine what will happen once the Bruins start to get something from Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin --



(Yes, you are reading that correct. He's not Pierre from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu‎. He's really Regis from Jersey.)


Actually, there is a segue here. McGuire was pretty great last night during NBC Sport Network's broadcast when he ripped the Rangers' disjointed and disinterested power play. The morning after, the sequence stands out as one piece of evidence that the uninspired Rangers aren't capable of making this a series. But hardly the only piece of evidence.

It's so bad for the Rangers, the end so inevitable, that coach John Tortorella, who prefers to communicate in grunts, smirks and eye-rolls, was teetering on introspection after the game. He noted that the Bruins' ability to "roll four lines'' was essential and a significant advantage against what he called his own short bench.

Actually, now that I re-consider it, that's not introspection. That's the coach recognizing the dead-end ahead and rolling out the first line of excuses. Barring an injury to the Bruins akin to David Krejci's momentum-shifting absence three seasons ago, the Rangers are not capable of coming back. They were sluggish upon returning to their home ice last night, a telltale sign of a motivational void. They were disorganized on the ice. There is no Simon Gagne on the horizon to rescue them.

Whether it happens Thursday in New York or Saturday in Boston, the Bruins will provide a favorite satisfaction in our city – ending a New York team's season.

The Rangers are done. The Bruins? Far from it. They may have only just begun.

Sure, there's a long way to go on the journey, with potential roadblocks ahead in Pittsburgh and Chicago and Detroit and on and on. Winning a Stanley Cup is the most grueling journey in professional sports. We know that. We've cherished it.

But this is starting to feel familiar in all the right ways, and it's best to be prepared. So someone with such access might want to check the oil in the duck boats. Gotta make sure they're ready. June isn't so far away.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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